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I Am (Not) A Geek

August 3, 2010

I met a guy the other night, who started our friendship out on the right foot by saying the best thing that anyone could say to me, “I love reading your blog. I love the way you write and think. Thanks so much for being so honest and open…” Or some such thing. Gush. I love you. This gushy love was somewhat diminished when he said the strangest thing anyone could say to me, “You’re a geek girl.”

Me? A Geek? Are you kidding? A geek? Me, who cannot balance her checkbook. Me, who routinely cries because her computer does the freezy-uppy-lose-my-stuffy thing. Me, with my incredible sense of style, way with words, ability to befriend anyone and always get laid, if I want to? A geek?  But I don’t have asthma! I don’t play video games, or particularly like science fiction. I do NOT wear socks with sandals. If I was balding, I would totally cut my hair! Me? A geek?

It took me a while to grok that one.

But I thought about it, and thought about it, I researched it, I took it apart and put it back together, I found logic in the seeming nonsense and made it work. And in so doing, I realized that the guy was right. I’m a geek. (Gush.)

Now, I live in Seattle. By default, the vast majority of my friends are geeks. You can’t throw your frozen computer out a window in a desperate fit of rage without hitting a geek around here. As a result, I love geeks. I have loved geeks in every way one can love a person, and I like to think that I understand geeks better than most – which I always assumed was because I was wise and empathetic, not because I am one of them.

Geeks make the world go round. They are the brilliant people who can create the systems that manage our global economy, using only 1s and 0s and a stick of chewing gum. They are the ones who can figure out how to turn algae into fuel, wind into electricity, viruses into the things that will cure cancer. They can take the most intractable problems in the world and boil them down to a set of tasks that can be solved with the right equation. They are always thinking. They can be a bit hard to relate to for many people, because they seem to lack a certain human empathy, ability to read signals, they seem almost robotic sometimes. But that’s just who they are.

None of these things describe me. I can’t do anything with any numbers. I am wildly emotional, and empathetic to a fault. I think electricity is magic, and I like it that way. The things I like to do are things that any trained (or in some cases untrained) monkey could do. I like to bake, cook, garden, sew, build things, write, exercise and have sex. If I could do nothing but those things, all day, I’d be happy. Totally content both physically and psychologically.

How can someone who is as domestic, creative, empathetic and sensual as I am be a geek?

Puzzles and research, that’s how. While I do spend my days doing these non-geeky things that I love so much, I do them in a totally geeky fashion. I research them, obsessively. I look for patterns that can be harnessed for better outcomes. I delve into them until I understand them and can make them do what I want.

I love food. The food in my home is the result of doing a ton of research about what is in food and how it interacts with my body. That’s why our home had raw milk in it long before it became a trend. Why I was fermenting foods in whey left from making cheese, making my own kombucha and vinegar and raising chickens long before it was cool. When it became clear that my body didn’t like wheat, I researched it until I figured out that naturally fermented sourdough bread would probably work for me, I grew a culture, I did experiments and low-and-behold, I can eat it.  I wasn’t trying to start a revolution or anything, but I had studied the nutritional value of food and it’s relationship with a healthy body to such a degree that I could no longer ignore it. I grokked it. And I did something about it. That’s geeky.

I do the same thing with sex, sort of. Sure, physically, when I stumble across something new, I will generally research it in any way I can, try it, see what works and what doesn’t, revise, try again and then come to a conclusion. (So to speak.) But with sex, it’s a little different. I am endlessly fascinated by how people react to sex and sexuality. I don’t really care about the mechanics of what they do and what brings them to orgasm, but I am obsessed with how people deal with their own sexuality. What they lie about and why. What they are honest about and why. What they are afraid of and why. What they are willing to compromise and why. And not. I’m curious, insatiably so.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this is so fascinating to me, because it’s not like my own sexuality is all that interesting, god knows my sex life isn’t, but I am, none the less, fascinated with sex from a sociocultural perspective. And it’s because it’s a great puzzle. One that, if solved, would make the world work better – I am sure of it. If I could just figure out how to get people comfortable with their own sexuality, and comfortable with the fact that other people have different ideas about their own sexuality, then I think I could make the world a better place. A place filled with happier people, who are more productive and less inclined to guilt, fear and war. Yup, again, geeky. Gotta grok it to solve the puzzle.

Then there’s the matter of my deeply emotional and expressive self. Surely these things appear to be the hallmark of definitive non-geekiness. But then again, for years, I have been telling people that I use my emotions to make rational decisions, and that’s pretty damned geeky, really. But it’s a simple matter of understanding the role of your emotions in leading the way to living the life you want to live. If you strip away judgment words like “good” and “bad” from your emotions and just look at them as things that you either want to feel more or less of, then you have a basis from which you can look at what led you to that point, and then alter either your behavior or your perspective to get a different outcome. And that’s what I do.

To me, ignoring your emotions – pretending you don’t have or feel them – is like doing an experiment but not paying any attention to the outcome. So I feel them. When I feel “bad”, I will go through everything that led to that moment, and break it into parts. I will figure out what I can control, and what is in someone else’s control. I will then talk to whoever else and say, “hey, it turns out, when you do this, I feel this thing I don’t want to feel, let’s figure it out.” It is what it is. That person then has the choice to either help me find a different interpretation or to change their behavior. They don’t have to do either, but I will, in order to avoid a repeat outcome of something I don’t want, often opt out of the situation altogether in order to avoid an undesirable outcome.

And that’s geeky. That’s kind of robotic.

(I’m not always consistent. When I’m “in love” I’m as big an idiot as the next person. Though, even then, my desire to feel happy will cause me to look at the signs and symptoms that led me to be unhappy, and “over communicate” through them. But I’m trying to figure it out, work together to solve a puzzle, not blame and control. Like any good geek, I always assume there’s an answer and a solution for a positive outcome, but if I don’t have all the data, I can’t write the right equation. I crave data. Without it, there is no way to solve the puzzle.)

To me, this is all knowledge. Knowledge should be shared. It’s not that I think that anyone is all that interested in ME, Alyssa Catherine Royse. But I do think that the trials and tribulations, mysteries and malfunctions that I stumble on, are likely to be pretty common. Other people probably stumble on them too. So, if I have good data, it should be shared, so that others can do something with it, we can all learn together. Kind of like coming up with the Open Source Code Base For Life. In fact, that’s it exactly….  Shared experiences, when honest and open, are the Open Source Code Base For Life.

That is sooooo who I am.  I love to solve puzzles, to create systems that work, I think the world can be solved by a well-wielded data set that results in people feeling happy and tingly and loved.

My tools are not binary. They are culinary and sensual and intellectual. But I use them in the same way, and for the same reason, that all of those world-saving geeks do. Being a geek may have less to do with wire-frame glasses and algorithms, and more to do with a plunging quest for knowledge that will build better systems for desirable outcomes. There are great artist geeks, culinary geeks, sexual geeks, computer geeks, music geeks, wine geeks, chocolate geeks….  For anything you can name, there is a geek in the front row, learning more, pushing the boundaries, sorting through the unknown to make it even better.

We are the researchers, the pioneers, the brave ones who risk ridicule and routinely get slammed into the lockers of our souls by people who don’t understand us. But we can’t help it. There’s a big gorgeous world out there to build, things to make.

In homage to, perhaps, my favorite geek of all, “we are the makers of music, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” Sure, with his crazy clothes, village of magical midgets and rivers of chocolate, Willy Wonka may not seem like your typical geek either. But who else, but a geek, could have built what he built?

I am a geek girl. And forever grateful to the man who read my words and could see that far more clearly than I did. You taught me something about myself, and I thank you for that. Grokked, and granted. I will wear it proudly. I will share it gleefully. And I will bring the chocolate.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mimi Ortega permalink
    October 7, 2011 2:29 pm

    This is awesome!!! Thank you for helping me realized that I am actually a geek myself.
    My favorite: ‘I can’t do anything with any numbers. I am wildly emotional, and empathetic to a fault. I think electricity is magic, and I like it that way

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